Fox Performing Arts Center

3801 Mission Inn Avenue,
Riverside, CA 92501

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Showing 51 - 75 of 81 comments

monika on December 27, 2006 at 6:08 pm

Any current contacts or up to date info on what is happening with the Fox would be appreciated. I’m currently living in Riverside and am willing to volunteer my time and theatre operation experience with whomever is currently working to restore the Fox.

JinanMontecristo on December 10, 2006 at 6:18 pm

I had recently stopped in Riverside looking for restaurant space and happened to notice the gorgeous Theater. I was mind boggled that it was not in use. Reading everyone’s comments I am more confused as to why this building is still not open to the public? It seems there are plenty of people willing to put in the effort to help open the Theater. What is the hold up?

TimBuck on October 1, 2006 at 5:22 am

Wow, a lot of cool memories going on here. I lived in Riv from 1964 to 1976, went to Ramona. I also remember going to the Fox for The Beatle movies and spending a ton of time at Fairmont Park in it’s hey-day. Someof my most fond memories are that of romping around the Mision Inn and sneaking into all of the magical secret places it held. We ran the guards ragged. We probably had that place more memorized than the people who lived and worked there.
I think the “pussycat” Theatre was originally called the Californian Theatre. I live in Ohio now but most of my family still lives in SoCal.
I truly hope that they can restore the Fox and Downtown to it former greatness. It was an awesome time and place to grow up.

ododson3 on September 9, 2006 at 8:39 am

I grew up in Riverside from 1952 to 1964 when I left for college. I remember the Fox fondly. Walking from the box-office the 15 feet to the front doors, into the dim curving lobby with deep deep carpets, and then through the doors into the auditorium was intoxicating. But I remember most the huge movie screen. In proportion to the size of the auditorium, the screen was by far the largest I’ve ever seen. Sitting in the lower level, the screen towered over one with what felt like the height of a 5 or 6 story building. The screen was also wide, very wide. It was huge and overwhelming. Projection was excellent with a bright and steady image.

In the renovation, I hope above all else that the screen can be preserved at its full 1960 size.

After that, I would hope to see the thick carpets retained in the lobby, the deep dark lobby ceiling and light fixtures, and the interior as it was. BTW, I visited the Fox in the 80s and the screen and projection were still there as fine as ever, though the theatre was showing only Spanish language films.

suninmyhair on April 18, 2006 at 9:11 am

I grew up just off of Market St in Riverside. I rode the carrousel at Fairmont Park, rented paddle boats there. It was a beautiful park. I used to go and get lip gloss at the five and dime and then escape the summer heat in the old Mission Inn. I climbed Mt Rubidoux and actually made it to the cross at the top. And I had my very first boy girl date at the Fox we saw a double header of King Kong and Jaws. I saw Starwars there and all of its sequels, Saturday Night Fever and Grease. The Fox was a very important part of my life. I used to go to a little vintage clothing store located between the fox and the Pussycat Theater ( still to this day that name makes my face flushed hahahaaaa) I am so very pleased that the Fox is going to be given its due and restored into its very grand stature. I can recall the velvet curtains that used to be closed when the movie started and the great big curtain that drew open when it was showtime. These are all part of my memories and I am sure the memories of thousands of others. I would love to be there for its opening night…….thanks to all that will make it grand once again.

Cinecitta on March 18, 2006 at 4:04 am

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RIVERSIDE â€" A project design for the long-stalled refurbishment of the historic Fox Theater was approved Tuesday by the Riverside City Council, acting in its capacity as the Redevelopment Agency.
“It’s a wonderful treasure that will unfold itself,” said Councilman Dom Betro. “We are trying to create a modern performing arts center but maintain its historic heritage.”

The unanimous vote followed a discussion with project architect Richard McCann, who has restored about 30 historic theaters, including the Wilshire Theater in Los Angeles and the 5th Avenue Theater in Seattle.

McCann and his staff displayed photos and concrete examples of their pre-design work, in which they painstakingly uncovered decorative tiles under stucco, stenciled patterns under layers of paint on kiosk beams and yet more patterns hidden away in closets or behind stage additions.

It’s the first time in decades that much of original interior artwork of the theater, which was built in 1929 in a Mission Revival design, has been exposed.

Some observers sitting in the audience in the Council Chamber gasped with each revelation.

“This must be a labor of love for you,” Councilwoman Nancy Hart told McCann before she voted to approve the design plans.

Mayor Ron Loveridge pushed for a timetable from City Manager Bradley J. Hudson, who said the project could begin as early as this fall with completion by about April 2008.

The 1,600-seat venue is envisioned as Riverside’s premier performing arts center, which would host Broadway-style shows, concert performances and ballets, according to the city’s project manager, Robert Wise.

“The theater will be rehabilitated to its original design but will be enlarged in some areas and have other modifications,” he said.

The city’s downtown area has struggled to develop an historic area with the restored Mission Inn as its centerpiece, despite the city’s investment of more than $122 million in the redevelopment project.

The missing element has been the Fox Theater, which in its heyday was the site of a sneak preview screening of the 1939 Civil War epic “Gone with the Wind.”

By the 1980s, the theater had fallen into disrepair and was showing only Spanish-language films.

The building went through a succession of owners, who promised to return it to its original condition and show first-run movies.

City officials saw a glimmer of hope when Joe Zivnak purchased the theater in 2001 for $1.4 million with an eye toward restoration that never occurred.

The city began eminent domain proceedings to take possession in 2004. Last December, the city settled with Zivnak, purchasing the theater for $2.9 million.

Plans call for keeping the exterior of the theater virtually intact but enlarge the stage area and upgrade the upstairs offices, according to a city report.

“The auditorium will pretty much remain as it is, and the ceiling will remain original with a little touch-up,” Wise said. “But the lobby has been repainted three or four times over. We have had paint experts come and look at the original colors and matched them.”

Theater offices and retail shops that line the theater at Market Street and Mission Inn Avenue would also be restored, Wise said.

The theater is expected to complement the Fox Plaza, a nearby proposed project of 900 condominiums, 200 lofts, a hotel and 800,000 square feet of commercial space.

hoodstockfoundation on February 20, 2006 at 2:51 pm

we are a nin profit and looking to by the fox and restore it

thedove76 on February 15, 2006 at 10:24 pm

Nice to know the Fox is still there. Hopefully it can be restored and put to good use. I spent a lot of happy times here. Some of my favorite Fox memories include seeing Bruce Lee’s “Enter the Dragon” on a night when the theater was giving away posters from the movie. The place was packed that night. I also recall the Fox staging a Beatles film festival where the four movies would run back-to-back. At that time, there was a acoustic guitar store in the complex near the entrance to the adult theater.

kencmcintyre on January 24, 2006 at 2:39 pm

Nobody’s perfect, Bill.

BhillH20 on October 22, 2005 at 3:32 pm

Its the same photo as 5 comments up!!

imkealy on June 6, 2005 at 9:06 am

Tell me about the pipe organ

Englewood on March 18, 2005 at 10:23 am

From the Los Angeles Times this morning (March 18, 2005):
“Chandeliers, Tiles Are
Stolen From Fox Theater”

“Thieves broke into the historic Fox Theater this month and stole chandeliers and tiles valued at $251,000, according to city officials.
"The thieves apparently pried open a side door and stole three Spanish-style chandeliers, 300 handmade 1920s-era Spanish tiles from a stairway and 85 tiles from the basement.
"The city sees the once-luxurious landmark as an integral part of its efforts to remake its faded downtown. Their goal is to turn the theater into a performance arts venue.”

warhorse on March 11, 2005 at 8:07 pm

I remember changing buses once in Riverside and having time for a movie. I thought this was a beautiful theater. It is sad to see that it has gone the way of many the fine old houses we had here in Chicago. And so many of them are built in the Spanish style.

I have fond memories of my one visit to the Fox.

astarinmars on February 24, 2005 at 6:21 am

I have always had a special interest in historic preservation since I was old enough to understand the importance of preserving all pasts, not just your own heritage. I am a twenty-three year old mother currently residing in Orange County. For me, the Downtown Riverside area is a unique place like no other. It’s a place I would like to return to someday. It is a place one does not stumble upon too often. Where else can you go to see the Historic Mission Inn’s Festival of Lights and ride a horse-drawn carriage around town or participate in the Dickens Festival; a three day weekend full of different events? In my personal opinion, if the historic downtown area was anything but historic, there would be nothing special about it. Its historic aspects add into all the fun events that take place there each year. Individuals such as me go there to see something different. I figure I can see an Edwards Cinema or a Krikorian Theatre anywhere; they’re all over the place. I believe the Fox Riverside Theatre would be a lovely addition to the already unique area. It would definitely add to that old fashioned feel. The thing that makes a particular site special is its history, as well as its unique architectural aspects, and the Fox Theatre has both. There are so many different things and events that can be held there. With each month containing its own special occasions or days for recognition of a certain person, place, or thing, I think there is quite a bit to work with. Each month the theatre can host shows pertaining to holidays and the celebration of actors and actresses of the silver screen era, along with the original plan to use the building as a performing arts center. I feel with all that to work with there won’t be too many dry spells of non-use. I have a lot of fun ideas for the whole year and I am only one person. I think with all the input of others who are also enthusiasts the current owner (if he still is) will have all the support of the community and others who want to help. I would volunteer my time in an instant if I could help in any way. We also have a Fox Theatre here in Orange County. It’s located in Downtown Fullerton. It too has gone through vandalism and old age. Recently last year sometime the Fullerton Historic Theatre Foundation set out to preserve it. “Save the Fox” turned out a happy ending. Now it will have its chance to be everything it once was before time and neglect took its toll. Here is the link if you’d like to take a look: I hope there is a happy ending for this Fox Theatre, too.

EugeneDavis on January 3, 2005 at 3:03 pm

From The Los Angeles Times: January 3, 2005

Riverside Sees Arts as Key to a Vital Core
Plans are to create a cultural hot spot to draw from the region’s growing population.
By Seema Mehta
Times Staff Writer

January 3, 2005

When Riverside’s Fox Theater screened the first public showing of “Gone With the Wind” in 1939, the landmark was a glamorous vaudeville stage and cinema, popular with Hollywood luminaries and featuring the rare luxury of air-conditioning.

More than six decades later, the Spanish colonial-style theater is faded and run-down, like the city blocks that surround it.

The city has spent $122 million trying to revitalize its downtown with limited success, leaving a mishmash that includes a four-star hotel within strolling distance of abandoned storefronts.

Now, Riverside leaders are staking downtown’s revival on the creation of a cultural and nightlife hotspot for the booming Inland Empire; a place where people in Riverside and San Bernardino counties can go for a night on the town without driving to Los Angeles or Orange County.

If successful, the lethargic downtown center would be transformed into a lively, urban district with a performing arts center, art galleries, a Broadway-style theater, restaurants and upscale shops.

Before, “the time wasn’t right for Riverside — the population base was too small, the demographics didn’t quite work,“ said Joseph Gogas, the city’s downtown project manager. "But the whole Inland Empire has transformed itself.”

Steven Erie, director of the Urban Studies and Planning Program at UC San Diego, said Riverside’s efforts are similar to what occurred in Orange County in the 1970s and 1980s. The result, the Orange County Performing Arts Center in Costa Mesa, helped provide an identity for that onetime bedroom community.

“If [Riverside] can bring a performing arts center in, that will bring people back to the city — to work, to live,“ he said.

There are already signs of life: Workers jam Simple Simon’s cafe on the pedestrian mall every weekday lunch hour, college kids gather at Back to the Grind coffeehouse and at art galleries, and BMW-driving couples nosh at Mario’s Place and other restaurants on weekends.

But intermingled with these bright spots are bail bond offices, pawnshops and dusty tchotchke emporiums. Businesspeople and urban planners say downtown’s prospects depend on whether more residents can be persuaded to dine, shop and play in the city center, and if the city is focused enough to achieve its goal.

There are doubters.

“No one seems to know where downtown is going. There’s a lack of vision,” said Ralph Megna, a consultant who was the city’s redevelopment chief from 1990 to 1997. “The shame of all this is downtown Riverside has enormous potential, but it is going virtually completely unrealized.”

The city’s glory days were nearly a century ago, when it was the favored haunt of polo-playing citrus heirs and Hollywood stars.

Because of its citrus industry, Riverside was once the wealthiest city per-capita in the country, city officials say.

“We were the watering hole for Southern California,” said Mayor Ron Loveridge. “Twenty-first century Riverside is different.”

While Los Angeles rose with the glamour of Hollywood, the citrus industry in the Inland counties waned, leaving Riverside the “back lot of Southern California,” he said. After World War II, downtown’s residents fled to the suburbs. Montgomery Ward, Sears and other businesses abandoned Riverside’s downtown in the 1960s. In 1971, the area was declared a redevelopment zone.

Since then, soaring housing prices along the Southern California coast started an inland migration. Riverside and San Bernardino counties, home to more than 3.7 million people, are expected to top 5 million by 2020.

Eric Van den Haute was looking for a location to open a branch of Cafe Sevilla, his popular San Diego restaurant, when he heard the population projections. He spent $2.7 million turning a vacant tractor dealership into a Spanish-themed restaurant in 1999, complete with a weekend flamenco show.

“People from Orange County and San Diego looked at me and truly asked if I fell on my head,” he said.

Sales grew 16% last year alone and are on par with sales at the Gas Lamp District branch. “Regardless if [downtown revitalization] happens or not … we are there forever,” he said.

Other prominent successes in downtown Riverside included turning the vacant Security Pacific Bank building into a state office complex; luring three federal and state courthouses and, most notably, restoring the historic Mission Inn.

The hotel where Richard and Pat Nixon were married and Ronald and Nancy Reagan spent their wedding night fell into disrepair and closed in 1985. When Riverside native and multimillionaire Duane Roberts bought it for $15.6 million in 1992, it was encircled by a chain-link fence.

The inn has undergone a $55-million restoration. Lush landscaping, stained glass and other eclectic features at the hotel are again drawing tourists and politicians such as President George W. Bush and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Megna faults current city leaders for scattering their efforts on a hodgepodge of projects, instead of focusing on “future-changing” developments such as the Mission Inn.

Councilman Dom Betro, who represents downtown, concedes that the city’s tack must change.

“The [previous] approach was more of a small-town, plan-a-project-at-a-time approach,” he said. “We’re trying to ratchet that up, make it a little more sophisticated, more coordinated, more in sync.”

In November, city leaders named six vital components to bringing downtown Riverside back to life: restoring the Fox Theater, creating the Barbara & Art Culver Center of the Arts, expanding the Riverside School for the Arts and building a shopping and residential complex on Market Street known as the Plaza at Mission Inn. They also called for the construction of 1,000 homes and 500,000 square feet of office space.

In December, the City Council voted to chip in $2.25 million of the $12-million cost of creating the Culver Center, a joint city-UC Riverside project that will be in the vacant Rouse’s department store, which is next to UC Riverside’s California Museum of Photography near City Hall. The center will house film screenings, gallery exhibitions, seminars, artists' studies and classroom and research space.

The City Council voted in November to seize the Fox Theater from its current owner. The Fox became famous when the producer of “Gone With the Wind” brought the classic to Riverside for a secret preview before the movie’s premiere.

The theater has apparently piqued the interest of the Nederlander Organization, which owns the Pantages Theatre in Los Angeles and approached the current owner about putting on Broadway-style shows.

Jack Kyser, chief economist of the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp., said a performing arts district’s success would hinge on regular performances at a variety of venues. “If you have a burst of activity followed by a dark period, that’s difficult. It makes it tough for merchants to survive,” he said.

But if the city is successful, it would be filling a void that encourages Inland Empire residents to drive elsewhere for a night on the town.

“Let’s face it, given the freeways, going to downtown Los Angeles or going to Orange County is tough duty,” he said. “Riverside does have some decent demographics that would seem to support [a cultural and nightlife district].”

Demographics has been a catalyst for revitalizations elsewhere. Efforts to create the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica floundered in the 1960s, but triumphed in the 1980s because of wealthy new residents and planning policies that concentrated movie theaters, cafes and shops there, said Bill Fulton, a senior scholar at USC’s School of Policy, Planning and Development.

Downtown Riverside’s keystone was supposed to be Villaggio, a proposal that included a movie theater, shops, restaurants and housing. The idea crumbled in September, with the developer complaining of rising concrete and steel costs. A city committee is considering four competing, scaled-back replacements to go in the area being called the Plaza at Mission Inn, but city leaders say their goal is not to compete with the malls and shopping centers that ring downtown. Modernization comes with a price, and some worry that something special may be lost in the city’s zeal to revitalize.

A historic downtown building that houses a comic store, artists studios and gallery was nearly razed to make way for a law firm’s garage, until the firm backed down last year. Built in 1886, the building was once a boarding house and restaurant operated by Jukichi Harada, who won a legal battle to overturn laws prohibiting the Japanese from owning property.

Artist Marian Semic, who painted the Harada family portrait on the side of the building, and who runs the People’s Gallery on the second floor, cautioned officials to tread carefully.

“I remember when I was a kid, people wanted to tear down the Mission Inn. Where would we be if they had done that?” she said. “The whole downtown area has really started to go through a renaissance. If they are careful and do it right, it will be a wonderful thing.”

William on December 15, 2004 at 8:01 am

The theatre that was located in the stage house of the Fox Theatre, during it’s last years was a Pussycat Adult Theatre.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on December 15, 2004 at 5:41 am

I was thinking that if Nederlander, or anyone else, wants to mount Broadway-style shows in the theater, they would need to return the stage house to its original use. The lack of a proper stage house would probably prevent the theater from being fully usable as a performing arts center.

If the Lido does have to be removed, I do hope they document it fully first.

Ken Roe
Ken Roe on December 15, 2004 at 5:07 am

The Lido Theatre is still there, sitting empty, like the Riverside Theater. I believe the City of Riverside are making moves on the owner of theatres to get them up and running again (see the above posting from Eugene Davis taken from the LA Times).

I will add the Lido as a separate entry to Cinema Treasures.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on December 15, 2004 at 4:32 am

I am wondering what became of the Lido Theatre, designed by Cliff Balch and built into the stage house of the Fox in 1941 or 1942, as a distinct theatre with its own entrance and lobby located in former shop space. Is it still there? If it is, and the Fox is to be restored for live performances, the Lido will have to be removed. This theater is not posted on Cinema Treasures. Does anyone have a description of it?

Ken Roe
Ken Roe on December 14, 2004 at 4:58 pm

The Riverside Theatre opened on 11th June 1929 with the W.S. Van Dyke directed movie “White Shadows in the South Seas” starring Monte Blue and Raquel Torres (This was the first MGM film where the sound of the trademark lion ‘roared’). Star of the movie Monte Blue attended in person. Jan Sofer conducted the 12 piece orchestra and Warren Wright was on the 2 Manual/10 Rank Wurlitzer theatre pipe organ.

Built for West Coast Theatres, the seating capacity at opening was 1,900.

I have a record that Lewis A. Smith (L.A. Smith) was the architect of the theatre, together with Balch and Stanbery. But being L.A. Smith died in 1926, it could be that Balch and Stanbery ‘took over’ and adapted his design for the theatre, similar to what is said to have happened at the Golden Gate Theatre in East Los Angeles.

EugeneDavis on November 17, 2004 at 2:51 am

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Riverside Votes to Seize Fox Theater
The City Council agrees to force a sale for $1.667 million, saying promised restoration of the building is lagging. The owner vows to fight.
By Seema Mehta
Times Staff Writer

November 17, 2004

The Riverside City Council voted Tuesday to seize the Fox Theater, saying the current owner had failed to restore the historic vaudeville stage and cinema and turn it into a cutting-edge performing arts center.

The vote authorizes the city’s redevelopment agency to use its power of eminent domain to force the sale of the theater to the city for $1.667 million, hundreds of thousands less than owner H.J. “Joe” Zivnak said would compensate him for what he invested in the theater.

“This is a difficult day — one I had hoped could be avoided,“ said Councilman Dom Betro before the 7-0 vote.

“I believe Mr. Zivnak should be commended for the heart and soul and effort he has put into the Fox Theater. But I also believe the Fox is the second most historical building in the city, and one that the City Council must move on.”

Zivnak said the city ignored the theater for decades and became interested only after he was approached by a major theater producer about putting on Broadway-style shows at the Fox. He also said the city reneged on its promise to help him financially with the theater’s roof and seismic retrofit, and he vowed to challenge the city in court.

“There is no question — I will fight them,“ he said before Tuesday’s meeting. "I have done nothing wrong, and they have dealt [with me] in bad faith since the very early parts of this. I did everything in my power to work with them. And all that happened for my efforts was that I ended up losing a lot of money.”

The Fox Theater opened in 1929 and screened the first public showing of “Gone With the Wind” a decade later. It has fallen into disrepair.

Zivnak bought the theater for nearly $1.4 million in March 2001 and said he spent $600,000 on renovations, including plumbing repairs, an upgraded sound system and organ installation, and refurbished office space.

Zivnak, 52, lives in Pomona and manufactures custom truck bodies. He said he bought the theater because of his memories of playing the pipe organ as a child at historic theaters.

“I basically purchased the theater to preserve it and install a pipe organ and preserve the way things were done back in the beginning — sing-alongs, concerts of organ [music], silent movies,“ he said.

“Of course, we weren’t limiting ourselves to that — we were also attempting to restore the vaudeville stage and stage live performances."

Since he bought the Fox, Zivnak has hosted charity fundraisers, silent movies with organ accompaniment and a film festival.

Estimates of full refurbishment costs range from $7 million to $17 million, but such improvements could bring 10,000 people to downtown Riverside every week, greatly boosting the council’s efforts to revitalize its downtown, Betro said.

The theater has apparently caught the interest of the Nederlander Organization, which owns the Pantages Theatre in Los Angeles among other venues. Zivnak said he was approached by the company about the possibility of putting on Broadway-style shows six to 10 weeks a year at a refurbished Fox.

The company declined to comment.

Betro said the council’s action was the best move for the city.

“The public benefit to be derived from the city taking charge of creating a performing arts center is really the main factor and most important at this time,” Betro said.

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Copyright 2004 Los Angeles Times

EugeneDavis on November 17, 2004 at 2:18 am

How wonderful to find this site! As a student at RCC, I worked for about a year as an usher at the Fox. I love old theatres like I love old churches! The Fox was very much a Southern California Cinema shrine of sorts. Frequent major studio previews with all of the associated Hollywood hoopla! It was fun. But what made the place so special to work in was its long time manager Mr David Lacky; a very tall and slender man, always immaculately attired in his Tuxedo, ever polite and soft spoken, he ruled with an erie omnipresence. Everything had to be perfect. We were required to be aware of everything from a burned out lightbulb, to the slightest tear in the upolstery of a seat. Every patron was special, and was to be accorded the utmost courtesy. Our uniforms were to be as immaculate as his Tuxedo, and were sent weekly for dry cleaning. There was a sence of pride in the place, and if one did not seem to feel and act on that pride, they were warmly advised that they ought to find something else more “fitting to your interests”. He could wither one with a glance, if they were momentarily out of line, but always award something else with high praise shortly thereafter. That the Fox was such a unique place was a testimony to a very special showman! May God rest his soul! If there are theatres in heaven, Mr. Lacky’s will be, as the sigh on every Fox West Coast Theatre claimed: “The Place To Go”

DennisLogan on January 24, 2004 at 5:17 pm

A preliminary comprehensive history of Fox Theater
By Marvin Powell, Historic Resources Assistant, Riverside Municipal Museum

Cultural Heritage Landmark # 39 is the local designation for the historic Fox Theater which is located in the Mission Inn District where it contributes to the Spanish architectural ambiance of the Downtown area. The theater was constructed in 1928 and served both as a cinema and vaudeville house, the latter was becoming a thing of the past as movies with recorded sound began to radiate theater. In the 1930’s it was one of the few buildings in downtown to have air-conditioning, a place to escape the sweltering heat. Since then it has undergone a number of changes, the most prevalent being ownership and operation.

Throughout the 1920’s, a chain of playhouses was being established by West Coast Theaters in many states and the construction of “Fox” theaters was rapidly taking place nationwide. The “Riverside Theater”, as it [Fox] was originally named, was one of 305 nationwide playhouses built by West Coast Theaters, a company operating under the aegis of William Fox of Fox Film Corporation. Fox

rosemarysullivan on December 4, 2003 at 1:02 pm

The Friends of the Fox website is up an running at The last event listed was on Nov. 28th. Some of the pages appear to be under construction with information “available soon” but there are contact names and numbers available. Check it out!